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Government seeks to privatise heroin distribution programme

The government has announced plans to turn over its controversial programme of prescribing heroin to addicts to a private pharmaceutical company.

Officials from the Swiss Public Health Office said now that the programme's clinical trial phase is over, it should be privatised. The government first started experimenting with the distribution of medically controlled heroin and methadone in Zurich in 1993.

Health office spokesman, Paul Dietschy, said tenders were being sought from private pharmaceutical companies which are interested in taking over the programme.

The government also intends to cut its financial support for the programme.

The plan has raised security and logistical concerns. The company which is granted the licence will have to produce and deliver the heroin under a special government licence and will be subjected to rigorous controls.

The removal of the government's financial backing may have a knock-on effect on the production and manufacturing costs of prescription heroin. Analysts say the cost of the drug needs to be kept down in order not to overburden the programme's budget and insurance companies.

Since January 1, medically prescribed heroin has been covered by basic health insurance.

swissinfo with agencies

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